A hotly anticipated Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan, longstanding rivals in both sport and geopolitics, is set to take place Saturday and attract millions of viewers around the world, marking the first time in seven years such a game has taken place in India.
The India-Pakistan cricket match will take place Saturday, with 134,000 fans expected to pack India’s Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad—but millions more from both countries, for whom cricket is a cultural staple, will be watching on television.
The rival nations typically play cricket matches in neutral venues—like last month’s Asia Cup match, which was held in Sri Lanka because India refused to travel to Pakistan—and this is the first time Pakistan’s team will play in India since 2016.
Adding fuel to the rivalry, India and Pakistan have traded wins and losses in smaller matches—but at the World Cup, Pakistan has never beaten India in any of their seven games.
Both teams are entering the match with momentum behind them: They’ve each won both of their two matches so far in the World Cup tournament.
Tickets for the highly anticipated match reportedly sold out in an hour, though the stands are likely to be populated almost entirely with Indian fans, as traveling between the two nations is difficult and Pakistani fans reported difficulties obtaining visas to make the game.
Even the Pakistani team had difficulties obtaining visas and reportedly only received them 36 hours before their scheduled departure to India, forcing them to miss a training camp.
Despite the fierce rivalry between the nations and their cricket teams, some hope the match will offer an opportunity for unity: Pakistan’s team was reportedly met with applause from Indian fans upon arrival in the country, and Pakistan’s team captain, Babar Azam, compared arriving in India to feeling “like we are home.”
Cricket has been slow to pick up an audience in the United States because it is mostly broadcast on cricket-specific streaming services like Willow TV instead of major broadcasters like FOX and ESPN, Fox Sports reported, and Major League Cricket only launched in the United States in June.
$2.6 billion. That’s how much the Cricket World Cup, which will be held in India for the first time in 12 years, might boost India’s economy, according to one estimate by economists at India’s Bank of Baroda. The India-Pakistan match is set to account for some of the boost as fans are expected to pack bars and restaurants on game day. Indian delivery service Swiggy “strengthened our fleet of delivery partners” to prepare for increased demand during the India-Pakistan game, Sidharth Bhakoo, vice president for national business at Swiggy, said.
“This is five times the Super Bowl. There are few rivalries that compare,” Farees Shah, host of the Shiny Side Cricket Podcast, told CNN, adding there could be “easily half a billion people” watching.
India and Pakistan have been embroiled in geopolitical conflict and have fought multiple wars since 1947 after the countries were partitioned, largely along religious lines, after the end of British colonial rule. Cricket, now a cultural phenomenon in both countries, was introduced by the British. The tensions between the two countries have made cricket matches complicated: India and Pakistan reportedly have gone years without playing each other, but they’ve also held matches during conflicts, like when they faced off in the 1999 World Cup while war raged on. In 2011, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch a cricket match between their respective nations together, which reportedly came as both countries were attempting to restart diplomatic talks. Matches between the two nations consistently attract massive audiences—more than 400 million people reportedly tuned in to watch the 2011 World Cup match between India and Pakistan.
Some fans in need of accommodations for the India-Pakistan match have checked into local hospitals for an overnight stay. “We have come across some cases of people coming to watch the India-Pakistan match also taking an appointment for health check-ups and staying in hospitals,” Tushar Patel, President of the Ahmedabad Medical Association, told Reuters. The Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association is discouraging hospitals from accommodating those who are not seriously in need of an appointment. Prices for travel and hotel accommodations have surged in India because of the World Cup, Bloomberg reported.